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10 Interesting Facts About Equatorial Guinea

How much do you know about Equatorial Guinea, one of Africa's smallest countries?

Equatorial Guinea is located on the west coast of Central Africa. It consists of both a mainland and island regions which cover an area of 11,000 square miles. This country has an interesting history and a unique current situation. Below is a look at 10 interesting facts about Equatorial Guinea.

10. It is the smallest African country to be a member of the United Nations.

Most African countries cover an extremely large area with the exception of some island nations, coastal nations, and Equatorial Guinea. On November 12, 1968, this country became a member of the United Nations. At the same time, according to total land area, Equatorial Guinea became the smallest African country to be a UN member.

9. It is considered to be one of the "least free" countries in the world.

The government of Equatorial Guinea is considered authoritarian and has one of the worst records of human rights abuses in the world. According to the yearly Freedom in the World survey which measures political and civil rights, Equatorial Guinea has a ranking of 7. The scale is 1 (most free) to 7 (least free).

Additionally, human trafficking is a significant social issue in this country, targeting women and children to work in the forced labor and sex industries. Treatment of prisoners here is often cruel as well, with mistreatment including beatings, abuse, torture, unsubstantiated imprisonment, and unexplained deaths. In an attempt to reduce these human rights violations, President Obiang banned abuse and torture in Equatorial Guinea and funded a remodeling project for the Black Beach prison in an attempt to modernize the facilities in 2007. However, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have continued to report human rights violations despite these changes.

8. Fewer than one million people live there.

Equatorial Guinea is 1 of 10 African countries with a population of less than one million, based on projected estimates. The 2015 projected population for this country is listed at only 845,060, however, 2015 census results claim over 1.2 million individuals live here. This conflicting information is common in countries with unstable governments.

7. Right now, they are building a new capital expected to be completed in 2020.

The current capital of Equatorial Guinea is Malabo, which is located in the Bioko Norte province on the island of Bioko, just 25 miles from the coast of Cameroon. This city has a population of over 187,000. The economy here is based on public administration and the fishing industry.

The government of this country is planning a new capital city, however. This city is known as Oyala and is located in the Wele-Nzas province of the mainland region. This site was chosen for its central location, which is near the Mengoyemen airport and between the cities of Bata and Mongomo. Oyala will become the new headquarters location for the police, military, president, administration, government, and Congress. It is expected to cover an area of 20,139 acres that will include several presidential villas and a new Congress building. Estimates suggest it will have a population of around 200,000 once complete.

6. It is one of the only nations in the world to not has its capital on the mainland.

Its current capital, Malabo, is one of the only capitals in the world that is not located within the continental region of a country. Portuguese colonists were the first to land here and unsuccessfully attempted to organize a sugarcane industry. Control was later given to the Spanish, although colonization attempts were largely unsuccessful. Control of this city was then given to the British, who used the area to fight the continued African slave trade. Its population grew as a result of British efforts to free slaves. Many of the descendants of these freed slaves have stayed on the island. The city went on to become the capital of the Spanish colony, which was established here in 1855. It retained its importance as a capital center after Equatorial Guinea gained independence.

5. It is one of the richest countries in Africa.

Equatorial Guinea is one of the largest oil producers in Africa. It has a gross domestic product (GDP) of $31.769 billion (adjusted for purchasing power parity), which makes it one of the richest countries in Africa. When compared to the population size, this country has a GDP per capita, adjusted for purchasing power parity, of $38,699.

4. However, the vast majority of its residents live in poverty.

The wealth in this country is not distributed among the population. In fact, the majority of its residents live in poverty and live without access to clean drinking water. Approximately 20% of its children die before reaching the age of 5 and only 25% of newborns are immunized against polio and measles (one of the lowest rates in the world). Only 50% of children complete primary school and less than 25% of them go on to secondary school. According to the UN Human Development Index, Equatorial Guinea ranks number 144.

Researchers offer an explanation for this uneven wealth distribution: government officials have benefitted most from the wealth of oil production. The government has a high level of corruption and investigation into fraudulent money handling has pointed to local construction projects.

3. The president of Equatorial Guinea has been serving since 1979.

Teodoro Obiang is the current President of Equatorial Guinea and has served since August of 1979. As President, he holds a significant amount of powers and serves as both Head of State and Head of Government. His son holds the position of Vice President. Since Obiang has held presidential power, at least 12 attempts have been made to overthrow the government.

Human Rights Watch considers his presidency to be equal to a dictatorship and several organizations claim that the elections held here are fraudulent. Obiang has been at the center of a number of investigations, including those managed by the government of France. He has been accused of using public funds to purchase luxury homes and vehicles in France.

2. It is the third largest oil exporter in Sub-Saharan Africa.

As one of the largest oil producers in Africa, Equatorial Guinea relies on this product to keep its economy moving. Crude petroleum makes up 69% of its total exports at a value of $4.1 billion. This is followed by petroleum gas, which makes up 23% of total exports at a value of $1.39 billion. These exports help the country maintain a positive trade balance of $4.28 billion with $5.92 billion in exports and $1.64 billion in imports.

1. It is the only country in Africa to have Spanish as an official language.

Equatorial Guinea was a Spanish colony on 2 separate occasions: between 1778 and 1810 and from 1844 to 1968. Because of its long influence over the country, Spanish has remained an important language. In fact, Equatorial Guinea is the only country in Africa where Spanish is an official language. Approximately 67.6% of the population can speak it. Spanish is the language used for public administration and education.

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